When you work for a great boss!
After a long gruelling month (year!) it was a lovely surprise to receive these beautiful flowers this afternoon with a thank you card from my manager. A gorgeous perfume is filling my loungeroom and I’m still smiling
When you work for a great boss!
After a long gruelling month (year!) it was a lovely surprise to receive these beautiful flowers this afternoon with a thank you card from my manager. A gorgeous perfume is filling my loungeroom and I’m still smiling
Sunday morning breakfast.
Fresh spinach from my patio garden with poached eggs and homemade bread topped with avocado and vegemite.
In spite of all the challenges of 2020 I hope everyone finds their tiny reason to still smile ❤️
To an outsider we would have looked like any normal family going on a weekend hike, but each of us, mum, dad, sister Kit and I, knew it was not. We had no choice but to pack up and head west. Away from our once shimmering, pulsating city now gasping for breath with only the stench of fear and rotten garbage its only reminder of modern civilization.
We headed out with a sense of excited relief and quiet despair, dad trying to keep the mood light and mum’s brown eyes smiling behind her mask covered in silent tears. We had all worn masks outside for months. Most had. But still most had died. Or left like us. Disappeared without a trace.
Dad drove our old Toyota Hilux till it ran out of petrol just on the other side of the mountain range. Then we had to walk carrying our gear through the steep descent into the valley of thick bushland. Dad was on a mission to the get there by nightfall to set up camp. ‘Keep walking. We will be safe there’ he kept saying. I limped along; pain shooting from throbbing blisters on my heels. Kit was crying and dad picked her up and carried both her and the heaviest backpack with our water supply. Mum stumbled, and I grabbed her hand. It felt warm and comforting. We continued for what seemed hours, Kit on Dad’s back and mum and I behind.
‘This is it!’ Dad smiled. ‘Let’s set up camp here.’
It was nothing like our home, but the small grassed clearing with the freshwater creek nearby and dense tall gumtrees all around that night was heaven. Mum soon had the fire burning with the smell of garlic and dried vegetables wafting through the place. We feasted and told funny stories, we laughed and we shed a few quiet tears in the dark. Life almost felt good and normal again; as if we were just on another camping trip.
But it wasn’t. We left the city, but the city came with us. It stalked us through the bushes, and safety was only a momentary illusion. We knew as soon as we lost Kit. We knew it was with us. We stopped hugging and sharing utensils. But we stayed together. Like robots without souls, we walked the bush further and further inland. But it stayed with us. One by one, first mum, then dad, then…..for the first time in my 17 years I was all alone. Totally and utterly alone. Not alone in a house, not alone in my room. No, I was totally alone in the outback. God only knows where. I didn’t. I sat for hours in the thick bush surrounded by an abundance of wildlife that had no idea what was happening in the world, in my world. I yelled into the empty vastness and finally cried myself to sleep.
That was 75 days ago. I have kept tally of the days in my notebook just to keep my mind sane. Somehow knowing what day it is makes me feel normal. I have a routine now. Every day I walk till the sun is highest in the sky, then I find a camp site and spend the rest of the day catching and preparing my dinner. My slingshot it great for getting little birds, a perfect size meal. Sometimes I go for days with just water and berries. I have gone for 75 days without human contact. Not sure which hunger is the worst. The rumbles of my stomach can be quietened by a descent feast, but the rumbles of my soul are always there. The longing for human touch, for a connection, the need to ease the anxiety, the fear of being alone, is always there beneath the surface of toughness.
Today my routine changed. It was cold, and I kept walking to stay warm. The breeze cut right through my worn jacket and dirty jeans in spite of the extra layers of shirts underneath. I was still searching for a protected campsite or a small cabin, if lucky, when the sun was starting to set. I felt a sense of panic as I heard my dad’s voice in my head ‘Always set up camp and a fire before dark.’
That’s when I smelt the smoke and saw the glow from a distant fire. Another hiker. Another human being. My heart raced. From fear and from excitement and the thought of maybe a warm meal. Could I risk it? I circled closer. In the dark, I could make out only one person. A slight build. I felt braver. I could win a fight if I had to. I was only metres away from the camp fire, and could feel the inviting glow on my body melting away any last bit of resistance. I stumbled, the person turned and pointed a gun at me.
‘Don’t come closer or I shoot you,’ the voice yelled.
Big blue eyes looked into mine, full of fear. A girl my age, her face dirty and streaked from days in the bush.
‘You look worse than me’ I tried to joke and smiled.
Her look softened and her gun lowered just for a moment.
‘You don’t need that’ I pointed to the gun. ‘Im not going to hurt you.’
‘How do I know you’re not sick like everyone else?’ her voice trembled.
‘Im not. I have been by myself for over 75 days. No contact with anyone else since my whole family passed. Im clean.’
She looked into my eyes, the frown on her forehead disappeared, and in that moment we both felt it. That overwhelming need to hold someone.
“Can I hug you?’ I asked, taking a step towards her.
She put down the gun and slowly moved into my outstretched arms, and for a long time all I heard was the beat of our hearts and the quiet sighs escaping from us both. We instantly knew from that day on we would begin our new normal. Together.
We are now halfway through 2020; a year of turmoil and change, but also a year of hope for a better life. Hope because the events that have unfolded this year has made us all appreciate what matters; love, family, human contact, freedom, time to reflect, our health and waking up every morning still BREATHING.
In fact, BREATHING seems to have been a common thread through the chaos we have experienced in 2020.
First the bushfires that ravaged such a vast part of Australia in our summer season and continued into the start of this year. Smoke filled the air even in places far from the burning bush. It blanketed Sydney for months and many stayed indoors because of the worst air quality experienced in our normally bright and clean city. Our BREATHING was restricted, and we felt it in our lungs when venturing outdoors on bad days.
Then Covid-19 started surfacing in China, a virus affecting the respiratory system and in worst cases requiring ventilators to assist with BREATHING. By March Australia saw a surge in cases and we went into lockdown. We needed to contain the virus as our hospitals and medical supplies were not ready to deal with mass infections. Mass production of both masks and respirators commenced in the anticipation of hospitals potentially filling with people not being able to BREATHE by themselves.
The restrictions has helped Australia manage Covid-19 so far, and we are seeing very few cases emerge now apart from travellers returning or cluster cases. We are in a new phase of easing up on the restrictions, though many businesses continue to work from home. Some are going back to what they used to do, as if everything is back to normal, but we are far from it. Right now we are in ‘holding our BREATH’ mode to see what happens next.
To top it off amidst all the turmoil an American police officer arrested and killed George Floyd. His last words ‘I can’t BREATHE’ was captured on video and plastered on headlines online everywhere. This gross injustice lead to a massive protest movement across not only America but the world. Amidst the dangers of Covid-19 people gathered in peaceful protests wearing masks to voice their opinion about the injustice against people of colour. It escalated and within days America was in chaos.
George Floyd’s last words echoes what has been the issue for many all of 2020. For people of restricted freedom and privileges, it has been an issue for a lot longer.
What are we being told? What is it we need to learn before we can move forward to a new normal?
BREATHING is our life force. Not just for us humans. It’s the basis of all existence. Animals breathe, plants breathe. We all breathe in coexistence and codependence. Our breath brings us back to a balanced life, it grounds us, it sustains us, it nurtures our bodies. We must breathe to exist.
A new normal must make BREATHING a top priority on all levels, from daily interactions to top corporate visions. It’s that simple. And also that complex.
Today is Anzac day in Australia.
People normally gather in the suburbs, in parks or near beaches to honour the many soldiers that have fought for our freedom, and there is an official parade in the city.
Not this year. Due to the restrictions we could not do this. Instead, the government urged people to honour a minute’s silence at dawn by lighting a candle and stand in their driveway or on their balconies.
This morning I woke at 5.50am with no alarm. My spirit wanted to join in and feel the connection in spite of us all being apart.
I put on my gym jacket over my pjs and made my way out on my balcony. It was still dark outside but I noticed quite a few lights out on the street and on balconies across from me.
As 6 o’clock ticked over the distant sound of the bugle playing announced the time to remember and take a moment of silence. It was both eerie and very special. I felt proud to call Australia home.
As the sun rose the only sound I could hear was the birds chirping. I breathed in the fresh air and decided now would be an excellent time to follow with a Yin yoga session. To breathe, to reflect and to look inwards.
After 30 minutes of stretching and holding poses I never thought I could do just 5 weeks ago, I watched the sky turn a bright blue. It was a beautiful autumn day, and today yoga was not enough. A brisk walk was what I needed after a week working from home, and I put on my shoes and cap and ventured out.
A walk in my neighbourhood full of bright sunshine, blue sky and trees adorned with amazing autumn colours.
What a special way to celebrate Anzac Day.
Wishing you a wonderful day wherever you are.
Stay safe and keep washing your hands.
Another week has gone by in this strange Covid-19 stay-at-home lifestyle. This has now been my life for almost five weeks. I have accepted it and maybe as an introvert it has not been too hard to adjust. Like everyone, I long to be around people, to have the freedom to get out and about whenever and wherever and with whoever I want. But for now we all just have to make the most of the situation. My motto in life has always been ‘if you cannot control the change then either accept it or do something about it’. Feeling like a victim and just complaining will not change anything.
So how do I cope and make the most of what this virus has thrust upon us all on a global scale?
Initially, I freaked out and cried a lot. I am sure we all did. You can read about my thoughts and concerns in my previous post.Thoughts and ramblings on Covid-19
But then I accepted my circumstances, and with acceptance came a strong focus and desire to learn, develop and to look for activities that gave me a deeper satisfaction. The start of an inward journey, a reflection, a slowing down.
To look after my health both physically and mentally became a driving force. I have a natural interest in nutritious food and health. My old uni studies into biology/nutrition and later Reiki/Massage therapy and personal training has provided me with an excellent base to look after myself. Trust me, I’m no angel. I know how to indulge in terrible food and couch binge on Netflix like a pro, but I love healthy food and exercise more.
So here are the things I have implemented. Not all at once, but bit by bit as my body and my mind craved them.
I have connected a lot more online with friends and family. Zoom meetings and messenger video chats are now a regular pass-time. It seems with the social distancing rule of staying physically apart our social connections have increased. With more free time and not rushing around ‘doing stuff’ we now have more time to nurture our relationships with people we care about.
Every Friday night my girlfriends and I meet up for a drink and a bite to eat online. We chat and we laugh; we share our fears and our hopes, and most importantly we stay connected. It’s a gathering we all look forward to.
I have loved yoga for a long time, but because of shoulder issues I could not do much till recently. This epidemic has renewed my love for this exercise. I now do a 30 minute Yin stretch class online every morning in the fresh air on my porch and after a few weeks I am so much more flexible and stronger. Even on a mental level. The focus on your breathing brings you into the now and helps reduce stress about the future. With daily changes, we cannot plan tomorrow. We can only focus on one day at a time. Today.
I still work five days from home, which means a lot of sitting in front of the computer. Not having to commute means we move so much less than on a normal working day. It is so important to incorporate movement into your day. At least twice during my working day I put on some loud dance music, plug my blue tooth earplugs in and dance like no-one is watching. Hang on, no-one is watching! It gets me moving and makes me feel good.
I have also found a strange love for Les Mills cardio classes on YouTube. Never been a massive fan, but for some reason doing Body Combat with 7000 other people feels invigorating and for a brief moment makes you forget you are by yourself at home. Heart pumping and loads of feel good endorphins rushing through your body.
I love writing and creating stories. Into my forth draft edit of a romance suspense novel. Had plans to finish another draft, then send it off to agents. But 2020 has so far been draining. First, we had the horrendous bushfires here in Australia, then it flooded and now we have Covid-19. I have felt a lack of any creativity.
I decided early on to not push myself. To just focus on adjusting, on work and on myself. But I want to ignite the muse again, hence the reason for these ramblings.
So I registered for two online writing courses with The Australian Writers Centre. I have 12 months to finish them in, but I plan to do them much sooner. It will give me some focus, teach me some new skills and get me back to my manuscript and to writing.
From the love of nutritious healthy food, the next step into growing my own vegetables seemed a natural one. My only issue is I live in an apartment. I do have a wonderful porch, large enough for a few pots. So I bought a few seedlings; climbing beans, tomatoes and snow peas. They have doubled in size and seem to be thriving. It has been a long time since I have grown anything and it has surprised me how much enjoyment I get from it. Checking on them every morning is now a routine I look forward to. In addition to my outdoor vegetable project, I also bought a Micro-greens plant box that now sits in my kitchen window seal waiting to grow enough for me to cut and put into a delicious salad or smoothie.
The nutrition we put into our bodies is so important, and even more so now. Despite my family no longer living with me, I make sure I still cook myself delicious and nutritious meals. I eat lots of vegetables and fish. No other meat apart from the occasional bacon with my breakfast. Like this morning’s scrambled eggs with bacon, spinach and parsley; mouthwatering as it’s a treat these days. I find the more I focus on eating healthy food, the fewer cravings I have for unhealthy food. But yes, chocolate cravings still exist. Sometimes you just have to indulge and be ok with it.
The benefits of pets are many. Watching them go on with their daily lives seems somehow relaxing. Their simple needs of food, shelter, and love brings us right back to basics. Reminds us to appreciate the simple things we still have in our lives. Nothing is better than cuddling up to a pet and forgetting about the outside world. My cat Schnooks, now almost 18 years, is an old girl. She doesn’t jump as much as before, need a bit of help to get up onto a sunny chair and sleeps/snores an awful lot. But since working from home she has been my constant companion and pretty much never leaves my side. Where ever I am she follows and finds herself a comfortable place to sleep. I think we will both find it hard to go back to working away from home.
The Australian government advised us to stay at home here in Sydney except for essential trips to go to work, to the supermarket for food or for medical reasons. We can also go out for exercise with the people we live with or with one friend, but are encouraged to do so by ourselves. During the week I stay at home as I work all day. I find I have no desperate need to get out. I love my home and feel very comfortable in my own company. Never get bored.
But on weekends, if the weather is sunny, I long to get out either to the beach or nature. So I get up early and go to a quiet natural park next to our local beach. It’s quiet except from the noises of birds and animals in the bush. On a typical 45-minute walk I might see ten people, all staying far apart, practising the 1.5mth social distancing. All the park benches are now blocked off stopping people from gathering or staying long.
It’s peaceful, and a brilliant time to reflect and exercise at the same time. Plus on this morning’s walk I found a few dead branches/sticks that I think may come in handy for my climbing vegetables.
Walking in the bush also provides me a chance to take a few photos.
Photos are only taken with my iPhone as I haven’t had the desire to grab my Canon yet.
Interesting how my creative side took a dive with Covid-19.
I wonder if anyone else has felt it? The lack of creativity. How are you coping?
‘It was once a beautiful city by the east coast of Australia known for its warm weather, azure blue bays, many majestic park lands, vast open spaces and clean air. That was before the fires came’
I wrote this over a month ago to go with some photos I took from the top of our local Westfield building early one Sunday morning while most of the city was still sleeping. It appealed to my interest in apocalyptic style movies and books, and I had two story lines rolling around my head. One of them I wrote as a short story for a competition, but there was a whole book in me wanting to come out.
This feeling now feels far too close to our reality here in Australia, and my desire to write these stories has been extinguished. The flames devastating this country sucked out the oxygen of the emerging seeds for these stories. The last month has been soul destroying and horrendous. Our firefighters have worked tirelessly for a very long time to keep as many people safe, but not without some losses, both lives and livelyhoods. Our ABC have done a fantastic job in keeping everyone informed https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/
Here is Sydney, where I live, a thick smoke has blanketed our city for what seems forever. The atmosphere is grey and depressing. I flew into Sydney airport on New Year’s day and the ‘view’, if you can call it that, had me in tears. Grey fog like air covered all the loved landmarks, and there was a rancid smell of smoke welcoming us as we descended the steps of the shuttle bus from the plane.
Our air quality, normally clear and healthy, has been skyrocketing on the AQI, some days over 2000. Healthy levels should be less than 100! I don’t suffer from any breathing problems or asthma, but in this smoke even I have noticed a heaviness and shortness in my breath when walking.
But we are the lucky ones here in Sydney. We are not in the fire danger zones and often live in air-conditioned houses with our comfort intact. Tornado like fires have not ravaged our lives and our homes are not demolished in the tracks of the burning flames. Our lives here in the city are as normal as can be under the circumstances; people are safe and appear to go on like they have before. And yet, do they?
I know I have felt the effects of the fires on my soul. I have cried over the devastation and the horrifying photos and stories posted on Facebook and other websites. I have wanted to stay informed, but part of me have also wanted to shut myself away from it. I have felt helpless and useless. I have reached out and said comforting words where needed, but never felt it was enough. I have adopted a koala and donated money in my small way. I have felt a need to be KIND. To do SOMETHING.
In the last few days I have noticed online posts are changing. We seem to be starting the new decade with a new mantra. From photos of devastation, anger, despair and name blaming; to a deep need to help and be kind to others. So many stories of normal everyday people showing enormous generosity and kindness. Like a chemist on the Sth Coast keeping his business open and providing free medication to people who have fled their homes and lost everything.
Big businesses are getting behind the kindness wave too, e.g. Airbnb have set up a link to Open Homes, for hosts opening up their places for free to people in need of shelter. Many donation links are popping up and groups are being set up to coordinate help. This morning I joined an animal rescue craft group and will knit pouches and nests. It’s a small act, but lots of small gestures add up to big outcomes.
Maybe that is the ONE POSITIVE in this tragedy; people starting to care for each other and for our environment. Something we should have started many many years ago. Why didn’t we? Who knows? Our own greed or maybe our beautiful Australian relaxed ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We don’t want to lose that feeling, but we must face reality when needed. Our environment needs looking after NOW or our future generation will never know what it means to breathe in clean air. The fires Australia has witnessed this season feels like nature is giving us a wake up call; shouting ‘sit up and listen to who is boss’; Mother Earth. This has nothing to do with politics; it is something we as humans need to do no matter what we believe in.
If you feel the same as I do and want to help there are many options. I list some of them below, but you can find many more online. Let’s fuel the flames of KINDNESS, and keep this earth and Australia beautiful.
Thank you for reading and for any support you can offer. Please feel free to add any comments or links to sites or groups helping out.
Vinnies Bushfire Appeal https://donate.vinnies.org.au/…/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal…
WWF Bushfire Rescue https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency
Wildlife Victoria https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/
Koala Ark https://www.aussieark.org.au/koala-ark/
The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/
Animal Rescue Craft Guild https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/
Can a writer write when not actually writing?
Of course we can. In fact, ‘non writing’ activities take up a huge chunk of our time. Many of us fill with guilt when not sitting in front of laptop writing, but to be honest so much of our writing ideas and skills come to life when we are not busy writing. These activities may ‘take us away’ from our writing, but I believe they also enrich our writing by providing ideas and additional knowledge and invaluable connections in the writing community.
Here are the top five activities that I have enjoyed ‘taking me away’ from my actual writing time this year.
I am part of both a writers’ group (FAW) and a writers critique group. We meet 3 Saturday afternoons every month. The writers’ group have some excellent speakers and workshops, and the critique group provides me with valuable feedback on my writing.
Attended the Sydney Writers festival and Writers Unleashed in the Shire. Some regional festivals sound awesome and on the radar for next year.
Participated on the committee for our own local Writers Unleashed festival this August. I learnt so much during this on how much is involved in organising an event like this, and connected with a huge number of fantastic writers.
Newsletters & Social Media
Sourcing materials on educational and informative news on all things writing for the monthly newsletter for FAW Sutherland has been fun and increased my own knowledge on what goes on out there in the writers world.
As Social Media officer for the Writers Unleashed I have put together a large number of posts to promote our festival and its many fantastic speakers. This has provided me with new skills and knowledge that I can now use on my own social media updates.
Author Book Launches
Many writers are introverts and public speaking does not always come easy. Attending book launches not only is a way to network and meet likeminded people, but also a way to learn what an audience enjoy and want to hear at book launches. What works and what doesn’t. Small gatherings of close friends and publishing supporters at book stores or libraries seem a winner. Even better with a bit of champagne to relax everyone! I frequently visit our local bookstore Anna’s Shop Around the Corner in Cronulla for some amazing talks. A true gem for writers!
Books & Podcasts
I love Podcasts. They make commuting a breeze! My favourites are @So You Want to be a Writer and Talking Aussie Boooks.
Reading as many books across a varied number of genres is essential. It hones our own craft and supports other writers.
To get as many into my busy days I use different media. My Kindle when travelling light. My audio when driving/exercising or doing housework. And a real book, the best, when I do find time to sit and enjoy the read. Which unfortunately is not always easy working full time as a planner and trying to fit in my writing in my spare time left.
Any writing course will hone your craft even if not in the genre you’re currently writing in. My MS is a romance suspense novel, but I write short stories across various genres.
My most recent course was on publishing children’s books and was fantastic. Learning expands your mind and never wasted. The AWC have so many great courses both in class and online. Check them out and build up your writer’s tool-kit.
Of course in the end actually sitting down to write is the only thing that will get your MS finished. But all of above still assist when you do sit in front of your laptop.
At least by writing about what gets me away from writing I actually got some writing done!
What do you find gets you away from writing , but also helps you in your writing?
🔥🔥 HOT OFF THE PRESS 🔥🔥
“King of the forest, old Silverback, fell down with a thump on the soft mulch-littered ground, and the whole forest held their breath. They realised something was wrong.”
A teaser for my children’s short story which I am SUPER excited to announce is now finally available in print as part of the Sutherland FAW anthology Webs of Life; a collection of short stories written by the many talented writers in the group.
It has taken several months of planning and organizing, and we can’t wait to officially launch the book at our Writers Unleashed festival on Saturday 17th August at Gymea Tradies in Sydney.
Also had my first taste of a writer’s reading yesterday. My workplace organised a BBQ and had me read the story. Was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. Happy to say the story was well received with lots of laughter and congratulations from everyone.
Enjoyed sharing that part of my life with my colleagues. To work at a place that encourages and supports employees in a life outside of work is heart-warming.
I’m feeling a bit more like a real writer today and it feels damn good.
If you would like a copy please DM me. Pre-orders before the festival at a discounted rate of $12 plus postage.
For centuries it had been frozen in time and in structure. Hidden from civilisation beneath the cold ice; covered in layers of bone chilling snow. Its weapon harmless. Unable to kill. A frozen assassin.
Global warming slowly changed the killer. Like a hibernating bear, the deadly bacteria stretched and yawned back to life. Slowly leaking out. Coming to the surface. Hungry. Deep in the Canadian mountains it started its roar.
The train left the station every carriage filled with hundreds of tourists dressed in hiking gear, expensive camera’s adorning their necks and carrying heavy backpacks. The buzz and excitement permeated every part of the train. Strangers connecting over maps and old travel stories.
It was Linda and Paul’s first hiking trip. They kept to themselves; cocooned in their bubble of young passion and excited about their future life together. Paul touched his shirt pocket for the hundredth time. The tiny box still there containing a dainty ring with the most expensive pink diamond he could afford on his meagre intern salary.
Linda looked pale. Paler than usual. Her long dark hair contrasting her porcelain skin. She had wanted to stay in bed that morning, but she couldn’t disappoint Paul.
The train slowed down, stopping at the last station before the climb up the steep mountain covered in an eery fog making it impossible to see to the top. Like it had disappeared. Hiding something.
‘Last stop. A ten minute break for anyone who wants to stretch or grab a snack at the station cafe,’ the voice came over the loudspeaker.
‘Let’s hop off. I need to pee’ Linda urged, feeling the wave of nausea that had plagued her for the last few days.
They jumped off holding hands and made their way to the far end of the platform. Paul noticed Linda shaking.
‘You don’t look well, Linda?’ concern written all over his young face. She just made it into the cubicle, head spinning when her insides rushed up her throat into the rust coloured toilet bowl.
‘Are you ok?’ she heard Paul’s voice outside.
When she didn’t answer he barged into the cubicle.
She looked up at him. The realisation hit. Late period!
Paul took off his neck tie, wet it under the tap and wiped her face covered in perspiration.
‘I think I might be pregnant Paul,’ Linda said quietly.
‘Oh My God! Yes!’ Paul hugged her as they sat huddled on the grimy bathroom tiles oblivious to the ear piercing sound of the train whistle.
‘A trip of a lifetime missed by 1 second, but two lives saved ‘ according to the evening news read by a grim faced reporter.
‘A tourist train met with a deadly destination today. SOS signals from the driver at 11am sent rescue teams to investigate. No survivors except a young couple who missed re-boarding at Trinytie. All carriages covered in unidentified pus. Cause of death unknown.’